The life of a teen parent is full of small quibbles, loud noises, and messes that may never get cleaned up. With distance learning, we fall into the trap of reminding them to turn in their assignments and nag them when they do not. Even as an educator, I fell into this trap. The strain on the relationship with my kid began to mount and I had to create a plan for calm at home with the teen.
Life at home with a teenager can be unpredictable, and challenging. The calm at home starts with us letting go of the things we cannot control. In turn, keeping true to one simple rule: give them choice and intervene when needed. Spoiler alert: most of the time it’s not needed.
The social contract. Setting up expectations for everyone in the house is necessary for calm at home with a teen. A social contract allows everyone to understand what is expected of them, and why. It also gives a clear outline for parents to turn to if expectations aren’t followed. This is especially important for teenagers, as they are needing to exercise their own choices as much as possible. Giving them the ability to choose many aspects of their day will provide more opportunity for asserting our opinion as needed.
Chores are important! People are at home, and the house is dirty. We can enlist help to save our sanity by breaking up the tasks and putting everyone to work. How do you do this? Braindump all the tasks and ask everyone which jobs they prefer. This provides a choice and starts to cultivate the practice of teamwork. We can strengthen teamwork by pitching in when possible. For instance, in our home, when someone forgets to wash their dishes – we may step in and wash them one time. In another exchange, we may ask for some help with tasks as well. Over time, this creates cooperation and calm in the home.
Don’t forget social interaction! The social piece has been a struggle for many teens. Following precautions and regulations is the first priority. However, it is also important for teens to have social interaction in this stage of their development. This may be through video game communication, face time calls, or supervised social distancing. A plan can be created together using conversation opportunities in the car, mealtimes, or just by request. Something to also consider in the creation of these boundaries is to be flexible enough, if broken, it will minimally impact others.
The role in distance learning. Distance learning is something teens can take a primary role. In the first six weeks, we do need to help establish healthy habits – that means being clear in our expectations, creating systems that take you out of the equation, and following up when expectations are broken. Our daughter woke up late one day for school. Instead of rushing around and helping her, we empathized with her and asked how she was going to solve the problem. We then had a conversation at dinner about what we would do if she continued that behavior, instead of focusing on following her around and preventing her from doing it again. When the problems and solutions belong to the teen, we are only needed as guides. This keeps the house calm.
Keep it fun! Lastly, it is important to schedule a fun time together with choice. It is up to us to find opportunities to spend time together in a meaningful way, even when they aren’t excited about it. However, we give our daughter one veto per day to opt-out of time with us in an activity. Our teens need interaction, praise, and to hear that they are doing things right more than they are doing things wrong. It’s easy to fall into the trap of criticizing and we still do it sometimes. That said, with open communication opportunities at dinner or in the car, this can be conveyed.
Life in quarantine can pose new challenges, but it is possible to create calm. Remember that time together, choice, and giving the solvable problems back to the teen is important. As we do this, we create calm in our home with a teen. We also have more opportunity to step away and do the things we need to do as well.